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Wednesday 14 November 2018

O'Neill: Dunne owes me for Republic of Ireland call

Jimmy Dunne. Photo: Sportsfile
Jimmy Dunne. Photo: Sportsfile

Michael O'Neill has admitted that he made an approach to Dundalk-born prospect Jimmy Dunne to offer him an international career with Northern Ireland.

But O'Neill has accepted defeat in the chase for the highly-rated Dunne, currently on loan to Hearts from Burnley.

Earlier this week Martin O'Neill named Dunne in his 36-man senior squad for the international double header against Northern Ireland and Denmark.

The Republic boss admitted that the call-up was sparked by reports of interest from the IFA in Dunne.

The 21-year-old, who played his schoolboy football with St Kevin's Boys and had a spell with Manchester United before a move to Burnley in 2016, has been frustrated with the lack off opportunities with the Republic's U21s, with just one appearance as a sub in their ill-fated European Championship qualifying campaign.

Dunne expressed an interest in a switch to Northern Ireland, via the parentage rule, and Michael O'Neill admits there was contact.

"People have to remember Jimmy Dunne is a player at Hearts where one of my coaches (Austin MacPhee) is the assistant manager and he's represented by Colin Murdock, who Jonny Evans' dad works for, so there is a lot of contact," O'Neill said.

"We knew Jimmy had a grandparent from Northern Ireland, so in that sense Jimmy is no different to Conor Washington - he's eligible through a grandparent.

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"I had a conversation with Jimmy in Edinburgh, he lives 10 minutes away from me. I told him if it was something he wanted to explore then great but it's a massive decision and I told him I wouldn't expect him to make the decision lightly.

"As a result of that he's got picked for the Republic of Ireland … so he owes me two cappuccinos!

"Seriously though, I'm delighted for him. To be called up after 15 minutes of under-21 football, he must have been very good in those 15 minutes. I'm delighted for the boy," added the Northern Ireland boss.

Martin O'Neill says he has tracked Dunne's progress since he moved to the SPL on loan.

"Young Dunne has gone from Burnley, he was going to be fourth choice centre-half there and he has gone up to Hearts, it's been a difficult week for Hearts and for himself but he is around about the scene that we are looking at," Martin O'Neill said this week.

"As he said himself, he had a tough old week of it, the Celtic match (0-5) and then the derby game with Hibs.

"But we're just having a look at him and he was very pleased that we were having a look at him and I think he genuinely wants to play for us.

"I said to him about the competition ahead of him this minute, we have a number of centre-backs who are playing, young Lenihan at Blackburn and Longy (Kevin Long) gets in now and again for Burnley. I know Clarkey (Ciarán Clark) hasn't played but I know what he can do. And (Shane) Duffy's playing for Brighton. So the competition is pretty tough," he added.

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